ARKANSAS, Oct 30 (Future Headlines)- CSIRO, Australia’s science agency, has announced a significant breakthrough in concentrated solar thermal (CST) technology at its research facility in Newcastle, New South Wales. The solar technologies team, led by Jin-Soo Kim, achieved a critical milestone temperature of 803 °C for the first time using a falling particle receiver.

In this breakthrough, the key innovation involves ceramic particles, fine as sand, that can endure extremely high temperatures. These particles act as a thermal battery, storing energy as heat for up to 15 hours. As they cool, they release the stored energy, providing power when needed, even during the night or periods of low solar and wind output. Traditional CSTs use heat transfer fluids with temperature limitations (e.g., molten salt or high-temperature oil), but the ceramic particles can endure temperatures over 1000°C, making them ideal for capturing and storing solar heat.

The “falling particle” method utilizes gravity to heat these small ceramic particles. Each particle is less than half a millimeter in size and is dropped from a hopper at the top of a tower, where it’s heated as it passes through concentrated solar energy. After heating, the particles are stored in a silo and can be used to produce steam for power generation or other industrial applications.

Overcoming challenges, the researchers implemented a “catch and release” method to ensure the ceramic particles fall at the right speed and maintain efficiency. CST with ceramic particles offers a dependable and green power source, allowing energy to be captured and stored for later use. This technology is particularly important as Australia looks to transition away from coal-fired power, with many coal plants expected to close before 2033.

A full-scale CST system using this technology could potentially have over 10,000 mirrors and generate power similar to a 100 MW coal plant. Additionally, CSIRO’s falling ceramic particle technology has the potential to address over 20% of Australia’s energy use and emissions by providing renewable heat for industrial processes, aiding in the decarbonization of industries like pet food manufacturing.

CSIRO’s efforts reflect the growing role of CST technology in supporting the decarbonization of industrial processes, and its potential to displace traditional energy sources like coal and gas with renewable heat, creating opportunities for green energy production and energy storage.

As CST projects gain momentum worldwide, with 6,460 megawatts of operational projects in 18 countries and 3,859 megawatts of projects under construction, the technology is poised to play a significant role in achieving renewable energy and decarbonization goals globally. CSIRO’s CST falling particle technology is a promising advancement in this field, offering efficient solar heat capture and storage capabilities. As the transition to renewable energy intensifies, this technology may be instrumental in addressing the energy needs of various industries and promoting a sustainable and clean energy future.

Writing by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White